Sunday, March 30, 2014
Racing resumed this week at Harrah's in Chester this weekend. Was the track fixed? Who knows? What we do know is all the drivers are back. Unless they got private assurances that the track has been fixed, they are fools for continuing racing there; any mishap which occurs at this point is on the drivers'.
A letter to HRU this week says the PETA issue is overblown. People get treated with medicine to improve their lives all the time, so what is wrong with a vet giving a horse medicine to improve their lives? There is a big difference. Let's start with the obvious answer; the human gives his consent for treatment with these medications. I have yet to see a horse give their consent to treatment. Secondly, a person can choose to live with the pain, take time off and improve albeit slowly, or chose those medications. A horse has no choice and while the best path of treatment may be rest, the horse has no option but be given medication. The so-called idea of benevolent medicating of the horse is really a question of getting the horse back on the track faster when rest or being retired is the better option for the horse.
Foiled Again wins once again in the Levy. Why don't they call the Levy Series the Burke series as he won for the second week in a row three of four legs of the race. The Levy is a perfect example of how Super Trainers, legitimate or not are killing the sport as a wagering game. Yes, it is the owners who choose their trainers and in a business sense being able to levitate to a trainer of your choice makes perfect sense but when your survival, with slots or not, depends on the end user (the gambler) your choice of trainers may help kill the sport. Something needs to be done. Why can't other trainers compete with these Super Trainers. I know some will say pharmaceuticals, and there may be a bit of truth to it but it can't be the whole story.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
If passed, the bill in Arizona will allow for the Tuscon Greyhound track to continue operating as an off-track wagering location without racing the statutory 100 days of live racing. While in theory the track could race, say 50 days of racing, odds are the track will turn off the lights around the track and just continue taking bets on other track's races.
Uncoupling is going to become an ominous word in pari-mutuel racing. Time to get used to it.
Driver Jim Morrill Jr. has been banned from Pocono Downs without any explanation given. It's not only the Meadowlands which uses exclusion rights.
Dave Briggs for HRU, talks about the PETA video and what it means for racing. Briggs is absolutely correct in that a new mindset is needed; people need to stop dealing with those who abuse our majestic horses. Being how owners seem to flock to the super trainers, I wish I could be confident our participants are ready to take the steps necessary; sadly I can't. As they say in Missouri, 'Show Me'. I still think federal intervention is necessary.
Thanks to G.g Myers for drawing my attention to Odgen Mills Phipps' response as representing The Jockey Club as Chairman regarding the said video. Briggs and Phipps are pretty much in sync. Let's see which breed moves faster to eliminate such behavior.
Finally, I love horses with unique colors and there is one training at the Meadows called Fancy Sierra Star, currently registered as being non-standard as her second damn wasn't a standardbred. Take a look and see why I am attracted to this lady.
Just a reminder, the USTA Annual Meeting's General Session will be available via live streaming starting tomorrow (Sunday) at 12:30pm. You can catch all the proceedings from the USTA website.
As you are all aware, Cat Manzi has retired from driving, and has decided now that he has grown up to train standardbreds, getting them ready to race. Of course, the decision as to when to retire is up to the driver, but quite honestly, I am glad he has put his whip away and is moving away from driving. Cat has no fear and has recovered from accident after accident only to bounce back but you couldn't help but wonder if he kept on driving if it would get to be one accident to many.
While Cat is in the Hall of Fame, truth is fans outside of the New York - New Jersey area really don't know him that much as he has basically stayed local since starting his career at Monticello Raceway before taking on Freehold, Meadowlands, and Yonkers Raceway. Cat's biggest influence at the Meadowlands was during the early years but realistically, he was a half mile track driver. That's not a knock on Cat and he has gone up against some very good drivers in his career. When at Freehold, there was no better driver in rating a horse on the front end so I loved it when I backed Cat and his horse was on the front end; it seemed like you were destined to collect.
Anyway, as Cat moves on to his next phase of life, I hope he is recognized in some way at the tracks he made his name at; a chance to give the fans a chance to say 'good bye' to a quite unassuming driver. A class act all the way.
When is racing going to learn that we need to stop races when accidents take place? Thursday night at Flamboro Downs is a perfect example of why we need to do it. By know you likely are aware of the accident at Flamboro where a horse got up and raced without a driver the wrong way up the track and sure enough, we had a collision which required the two horses involved in the accident to be euthanized
I know tracks and horsemen don't want to lose their commissions by cancelling a race (which they ended up doing by declaring the race a 'no contest'), but are we that hard up that we are willing to risk the llives of horses and others when an accident occurs? What we should do is if the accident occurs less than a half mile in the race, is stop the race and have the horses return later in the evening. If the race went past the half, then declare the race a 'no contest' and divide the purse money among those horses still racing when the accident occurred..
Tragedy was averted yesterday at Saratoga Raceway and Casino with an early morning barb fire when people on track managed to rescue all 15-20 horse in the barn. Luck was with them as none of the horses were hurt. A huge shout out to everyone who helped in rescuing the horses but it should be noted this was an older barn, one without a fire sprinkler system. I know they are expensive. but no public barns should be without a sprinkler system. The cost is expensive, but how much is it to to replace all the horses who may be lost in a fire?
Friday, March 28, 2014
Thursday, March 27, 2014
STD's first crop has reached the age of two and while the plans were to see how his off-spring were doing during the racing season, I decided to check in early to see how STD's first crop were doing thus far in their preparations for the upcoming racing season. Thanks to Ms. Thomas who provided the following report, here are comments by some of the trainers who are breaking and training STD's first crop.
KENTUCKY ROCKET (colt, out of Kentucky Heat [White Heat])- report from Emma Langford, daughter of trainer David Langford
|Kentucky Rocket in training.|
|Kentucky Rocket in training.|
Lasix, one of the popular drugs is given to horses that bleed. I don't call for Lasix to be banned (at this time) because something needs to be done to make sure these horses don't end up in a feed lot. The problem is racing (and a lot of America) rather treat the symptoms than cure the problem. How do you cure bleeding? You recognize it is an undesirable trait which you don't want in a horse and as a result, you don't use that horse for breeding. As a South African study shows, bleeding is hereditary so you need to avoid breeding those horses. You breed only non-bleeeders and eventually you will have a hardier horse that doesn't bleed. When you get to that point, then you outlaw Lasix.
Greyhound racing is another step closer to being uncoupled from the casinos in Iowa and then shut down.
Some thoughts from Jeff Gural's Q&A in Canada: It should be mandatory that 5% of all slot revenue go into marketing; forget about lottery wagers such as the V75 as there is not enough handle in racing to support it; successful race meets are short meets indicating tracks like Saratoga (TB), Keenland, and Del Mar; while Gural made arrangements for more racing on television, the Pennsylvania races are questionable since the PHHA doesn't want to cut purse about $50 a race to pay for it. If you want more information about what Gural said as well as PC leader Tim Hudak, you can check out Darryl Kaplan's tweet feed here.
As much as I would love to see Atlantic City hobbled more after what they have done to racing in New Jersey, the move to restore the original interpretation of the American Wire Act which would outlaw online gaming (not horse racing) even where it is presently occurring is a bad idea. People have and will continue to find ways to wager on online casino games whether legal or not so at least by having the states regulate the sites will prevent underage gambling, ensure the integrity of the games, and payment of winnings. And yes, the state may as well collect taxes on these companies which they can't from off-shore companies.
Of course, this bill has a backer, Sheldon Adleson, who is an owner of brick-and-mortar casinos globally, including Las Vegas. Obviously he has his own reasons for supporting this bill which are obvious; self-interest. Whether this bill goes anywhere remains to be seen (the 'experts' say no) but it is sure to get some people sweating bullets, including those executives in Atlantic City. Good, for once let them feel what it is like to be in racing.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
We are a month away from the finals of the George Morton Levy Memorial and Blue Chip Matchmaker series at Yonkers, which is also the start of HANA Harness' 2014 Grand Circuit 'Shoot-Out' Handicapping Challenge sponsored by The Hambletonian Society, DRF Harness, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. The contest has a brand new format this year as some of the minor stakes which tend to draw historically short fields have been dropped and the handicappers will be able to pick their spots as to where to wager on any of the Grand Circuit races that night. To see who the handicappers are as well as the rescues they are playing for, why not check out this link?
The USTA Annual Meeting begin Sunday and one again will be broadcast live over the web. It is always interesting to hear what is going on at the USTA and how it may impact racing. If you can't catch them live, the USTA tends to archive them for later viewing.
Negotiations between Monticello Raceway and the MHHA supposedly have hit an impasse with neither side willing to budge on the key issue of the slot subsidy cap. Now the horsemen are beginning to realize the way around their issues regarding the law which caps revenue at 2013 levels is by going to the legislature and attempt to get the law changed instead of negotiating a work around with the tracks. I don't know if they will be successful, but I could have told them that this was the way to attempt to address the issue, not by withholding your signal and seeing your purses get severely cut. Of course, the question here is with the horsemen and track reaching this point, how do they save face and end this confrontation which shouldn't and never needed to happen? This is what happens when you get to be the guinea pig for others when it comes to dealing with a contentious issue.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
For those who have yet to see the video and desire to, here it is.
From the feedback of the New York Times article and the PETA video, one thing is clear. While many of the practices highlighted are 'legal', many find them distasteful if not unethical, bordering or crossing the line of animal abuse.
So based on the reaction thus far, can we draw any conclusions for harness racing?
People find physical abuse of horses unacceptable. If this is the case, how much longer can racing support the use of whips with regards to horses? Sure, racing in many states has restricted the use of of whips but by the nature of harness racing, the whips must be long to reach from the cart. Nothing can be done with regards to the size of the whip but the use of the whip must be further restricted if not outright banned; fines for infractions must be much more severe, possibly to include days in addition to fines. I would suggest a committee be formed with regards to how we can phase-in whip free racing.
The foot must remain in the sulky. Kicking horses is verboten as far as the public is concerned. This means 'booting', having the foot brush the horses' hocks, or outright kicking has to stop. Even if you are a firm believer in there is no pain to the horses by kicking; if it looks ugly, it is ugly.
Granted, a minor factor is I would get rid of tattoos on the neck of the horse and instead replace it with micro-chipping. Tattoos look like the horse is being treated as property to be done with as pleased where if the practice is changed and tattoos are replaced with a microchip, the horse would look like a majestic animal instead of a piece of property. A scanner would be all that's necessary to identify a horse for a race.
The toughest items would be dealing with the medication issue. Harness racing doesn't need a video such as the PETA one made about it. The industry needs to have a real heart to heart discussion about the role of medications and supplements. Obviously, performance-enhancers need to be eliminated from the sport, but the role of maintenance medications and supplements needs to be questioned. Can we go back to the days of hay and water or do we continue to routinely pre-race horses with supplements and the like to get an advantage over the others? I don't pretend to know the specific answer to the question but we don't need a video showing every performance enhancement being given to horses routinely.
So while harness racing has escaped he gaze of PETA in this go around, it doesn't give the sport an excuse to ignore what is happening for sooner or later, either through association or a separate investigation, the eyes of the public will be looking at harness racing. The time to address problems is before hand, not after the fact.
About my Selections: While I consider myself a good handicapper (a subjective opinion), my selections are not guaranteed. My selections are often made a couple of days before the actual day of the race and reflect my opinion as to who will win a particular race; it does not account for late changes. Do not confuse handicapping with gambling. A good handicapper does not mean a person is a successful gambler. Gambling involves money management and a good gambler does not wager on every race and at times will not wager on the best horse in a race in an effort to get value for their wager. I have not and will not call myself a good gambler.
Just because I have posted my selections does not mean I will wager on them. I enjoy handicapping and sometimes it is just enough to see how my selections would have done if I played them. Sometimes, I will wager on a different horse (late changes, odds too high or low, etc.). That being said, I put a good faith effort when I make my selections. I handicap the races as if I was going to be putting my own money down on my picks; I will never deliberately pick a horse to win, knowing I will bet on another one.
Errors can be made when I post my selections. I cannot accept responsibility for errors in my postings.
Selections are for Entertainment Purposes Only (Disclaimer):My selections are for entertainment purposes only. You may wish to compare my selections with your selections or to get a different perspective. Selections are not warranted and no responsibility is taken for selections posted. Posting of selections should not be construed as an inducement to wager.
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Monday, March 24, 2014
The article applies to thoroughbreds, but for the most part it can and does apply to the standardbred industry. Where there may be a difference (I admit I don't know the mindset of those in thoroughbred industry) is with regards to the acknowledgement there is a medication problem. There are leaders in the industry who are looking to find the most efficient way to detect new and existing medications; Jeff Gural has taken testing for illegal substances to Hong Kong. There are horsemen associations which have made grants to buy testing equipment or fund research to come up with ways to catch the crooks. This doesn't mean I don't think the Feds should get involved; they should. But it can't be denied there are those in harness racing actively looking to catch those cheaters.
Quite honestly, one of the biggest problems any form of racing has are the rights conferred upon the accused and the unwillingness to boot any but the most abusive cheats out of the sport; call it plea bargaining or disinterest by racing officials. I am not saying a person should not be able to defend themselves against accusations, but they are given too much leeway when it comes to abusing the system to stall justice at every turn.
How come driving a car is a privilege and not a right but being a participant in racing is a right and not a privilege? There is something wrong when judges worry more about someone keeping their job instead of the damage they are inflicting on their employers and customers (the bettor).
Yes Cohen is right, but I wish he would address in his next article how the judicial system is set up to defend the cheats to the point that those who would do battle against them rather lock themselves up in a closed room, screaming and pulling their hair out. Until the law is changed to put the rights of everyone in proper perspective, this nonsense will continue.
For a different spin on the subject, here is an essay from a horsewoman who welcomes PETA's involvement. She correctly points out you can't stop with racing; there are other disciplines of equestrian sports which need to be followed.
For those who don't care for Jeff Gural's use of exclusion rights, Ray Paulick wishes there was someone like him in thoroughbred racing.
While the long term desire of PETA is to outlaw horse racing (something I don't support), I support the passage of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act. It is clear that racing has been unable to prevent the abuse of medication when it comes to race horses nor is it able to rid the respective breeds of those trainers who continue to flaunt the rules. With policing by the U.S. Anti-doping agency, the cheats will be assured of long suspensions and being banned from horse racing for subsequent violations. As long as the cheats are able to continue to game the existing system, the safety of both horses and participants remain at risk and leaves horse racing with a bad feeling for the betting and general public.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
What is there to say about Foiled Again? The 10 year old pacer picked up where he finished his 9 year old career, in the winners circle after winning the first leg of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pace in his seasonal debut. Some people are probably wishing a horse like Foiled Again was intact, but it is the geldings which provide racing with their long term heroes. Foiled Again is a hero and here's hoping to see many more victories in 2014 from the ageless wonder.
While it wasn't the Levy this week, Shoobee's Place, one of the horses driver Joe Bongirorno was told to race conservatively last week won in his first start back at the Old Hilltop in a non-winners of $18,000 in the last six starts. SP went off a second choice and won the race, paying $7.10. Don't be surprised if Shoobee's Place tries the big boys next week.
With the Levy at Yonkers this week, along with the big drivers, it figured Yonkers would eat the Meadowlands for dinner handle-wise, except for on thing; it didn't happen. Yonkers handled $861,682 for their twelve race card while the Meadowlands handled a 'measly' $2,902,002 for their eleven race card with their no-name drivers. Balmoral Park with Illinois' decimated racing scene handled a mere $1,201,281 for their thirteen race card. Well, there is some consolation for Yonkers; they did manage to out handle Cal-Expo, the king of $3,000 claimers which drew only $743,213 for their thirteen race card.
In the feature race at Melton, Keystone Del NZ won the final of the $300,000 Great Southern Star Final in a mile rate of 1:56.5, defeating Stent NZ by half a neck at the wire. Keystone Del NZ also won his eliminaiton earlier in the evening (1:56.6 mile rate). The final may be seen here.
No doubt about it, program pages in North America are superior to what you get Down Under (of course, it may be a question of what you are used to) but there are two features they have in Australia that I do like. One, is the in the results chart of each race (chart is actually a misnomer). They have a column called Stewards' Comments which contain important information on each horse. For example in the 1st race at Melton on Saturday, you see comments like these for horses in the race. For the race winner, Mister Gunson, you see the following listed (abbreviations actually): "Fractious in score up, last chance in draw, gate speed, led, leader at bell, swabbed". For The Bohemian NZ, it is noted: "1 out back 4 at bell, 3 wide late with trail". Some track in North America have comments from the race charter, but they certainly don't go into such detail.
The other thing I like is the fact they publish the Stewards' Report for each race day in Australia. It may take a day or two for the report to be available but the information listed may be helpful when handicapping future races. For example, where are you going to see comments from anyone like this, "Rounding the home turn on the final occasion Wheres Bub shifted ground inwards and momentarily tightened the ground of Lohi Liz resulting in Lohi Liz contacting the red marker peg"? How about this comment, "Cory Bell (It Is Ike) was questioned regarding his tactics in this event and in particular the reasons why he restrained from the start when the horse had gone forward from barrier 4 at its most previous start at Maryborough. Driver Bell reported that it was his intention to go forward from the barrier but as the start was affected horses to his inside began too well and he elected then to restrain in an attempt to take a position in the back straight. He was further questioned as to the reasons why he failed to move from the pegs in the back straight on the final occasion. Driver Bell reported that the horse was hanging out and when racing wider has a tendency to hit its knees. He felt had he have moved wider on the track approaching the 500m mark Lucindas Fella, racing to his outside, was tiring and he would have been forced to move to a three wide position and disadvantage his horse. He remained on the pegs before attempting to take a run in the home straight but again It Is Ike hung out against his efforts and proved difficult to drive. A warning was placed on the performance of It Is Ike and driver Cory Bell’s explanations were noted"? The Stewards' Reports also include the issuing of fines and the results of hearings (justice is quick Down Under). If you are trying to give horseplayers all the information possible, reports like this can be indispensable.
What were they thinking? As in the United States, gamblers are concerned about the medication of race horses. Therefore, imaging my surprise to see one of the big advertising billboards around the track at Tabcorp Park Melton was for a company Carbine Chemicals. Really? Further research shows that Carbine Chemicals produces horse supplements; innocent enough, but by advertising a 'chemical' company on your track certainly gives spectators reason to pause.
Friday, March 21, 2014
The original bills HB 1033 and SB 1170, had language requiring a contract determining purses (and by default what percentage of slot revenue would go to harness horsemen) in order to have a gaming license. Lobbyists for Isle of Capri had managed to get an amendment through which allows harness racing (pg 202-204) to be the only type of racing without such protection.
From Mr. Pennacchio's statement (roughly the 18:00 mark), you can see how well Isle of Capri has taken care of them (sarcasm intented). Harness racing now races for less purse money than they did before casino gambling came into being. The racing facility is run down and for the most part closed and slot revenue is not shared with the horsemen under any contract. Despite the way the harness industry has gone down hill in the state while the thoroughbred and quarter horse industry thrives, it just seems the harness horsemen get no assistance from the legislature. It would appear the harness horsemen lack political support and are over matched when it comes to lobbying the legislature. All the standardbred horsemen want is fairness, apparently something unattainable in the Sunshine State.
Fortunately, it appears this bill will go nowhere for now as the Governor has asked the legislature to apply the brakes to gaming legislation as he works on a new compact with the Seminole Indian Nation in Florida. However, you have to wonder how they will be treated when gambling legislation comes up again. It promises to be ugly.
Where has things gone wrong for standardbred interests in the state? No doubt thoroughbred racing is king and quarter horse racing has support which makes things easier for them in the legislature but make no mistake, it takes cash and a political action committee to curry favor with legislators. It may go against some people but the fact is campaign donations help legislators see your side of the story. I have no doubt Isle of Capri lobbyists ran roughshod over standardbred interests in getting the legislation modified. How else do you explain such an illogical decision? Why shouldn't harness interests be treated the same as thoroughbred and quarter horse interests when it comes to allowing slot machines to operate? Why is it okay for a contract required to be signed by the other two breeds but Pompano Park has the right to operate their slot machines without a purse agreement? What is the difference? Influence.
Let this be a lesson to horsemen and owners in other states. Fund your PACs as much as possible because you can't show up when a bill comes up and expect favors. You need to curry favor and distribute the campaign contributions before the need arises. It's not secret Pennsylvania horsemen are successful in their lobbying efforts as they have been able to fight off (or minimize) raids on their slot contributions to their purse account..
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Those of us who have watched the development of racinos have every right to be cynical as most tracks immediately sell out racing for the more profitable forms of alternative gaming. That said, Milstein owns 80% of the stock in the operation so a racetrack operator controls the vast majority of the stock in the company. Signs of commitment to racing are the fact there is a vibrant backstretch community, something lacking at most tracks these days; a strong simulcast audience; a state that still loves its harness racing.
Here is hoping that Brock Milstein is sincere, not another person who says one thing and then lets us down.
Which brings us to Monticello Raceway. Remember the new racetrack that was going to be built at the new facility being built? Well, forget about it. Last week Empire Resorts, the developer presented plans for the new entertainment complex and lo and behold, what was thought to be where the racetrack was going to be constructed is now a planned waterpark. You say this is due to the dispute between raceway management and the MHHA? Think again, if we are to believe Empire Resorts claims they have been working on the existing plans for at least two years.
Empire Resorts claims racing will continue at the old facility; the one where racing fans are taken back to the not so magical 1960's. Even if the VLTs were to remain at the raceway, how many people would abandon the VLTs for a full functioning casino, leaving the casisno a ghost town. In this case, the track may be helped by the 2013 contribution rate as the horsemen would be guaranteed that much of a subsidy. However, the lack of a racetrack makes Empire Resorts just another bidder. Failure to receive the gaming license would likely put Empire Resorts as well as the racetrack out of business, costing horsemen a place to race.
Somehow we take little comfort from the statement made by Empire Resorts, "We have been operating harness racing since 1958, and in any scenario remain committed to improving, supporting and operating harness racing, either at our new location if we are a successful bidder, or at the current Monticello Raceway." Anyone who has attended the races at Monticello since the racino opened can tell you how committed Empire Resorts has been (zilch).
Scarborough Downs has received the proverbial kick in the groin as the state Senate refused to pass the bill which would have allowed them to open a casino if approval was given in the town, negating the need to have a state-wide referendum. If the threats of track management come to fruition, 2014 may be the final year of racing at Scarborough.
On the thoroughbred side of racing, it seems PETA had trainer Steve Asmussen in their cross-hairs and they hit gold as they have him on tape admitting he has had a jockey use a 'buzzer' on his horses to administer electric shocks, a practice not permitted in racing. It should be noted this was not alleged to be done during actually racing. PETA also has Asmussen and others admitting they had run a horse into the ground. The horse died a year later, allegedly from colic.
What does this mean, other than another black eye for racing? It is hard to say being the video was edited so the argument could be made PETA made things look worse than they are. However, admitting a horse was run into the ground and a buzzer was used on a horse is kind of hard to explain away, even if you use the editing argument.
The problem with this revelation is harness racing will get thrown into the same boat as the runners and criticized for it. Other than that, it will be interesting to see if racing does anything to penalize Asmussen.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
That being said, things were not helped when only twelve horses dropped in the box for the Horse & Groom series resulting in two fields of six horses. I know the argument that if you pay to get in to a race you deserve to have your nose on the gate but this thinking is hurting not only the Meadowlands but tracks and horsemen all over as it creates races which many horseplayers will never touch. From the gambling perspective, wouldn't it be better to have one great race to wager on instead of two races which most people won't touch? Participants in the sport have to learn sometimes you need to take one for the sport. Perhaps offering an incentive where horses starting from the second tier earn a 20% bonus on what they earn in the race will induce owners to be willing to have their horses start from the second tier or at least get drivers to race more aggressively from the back row.
We have discussed the unfortunate choice of words used on Saturday night's in-house racing show at the Meadowlands in this blog for a couple of days so it is appropriate to publish here a press release from the Meadowlands regarding the incident. Let this be the final word.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Some people speculated Bongiorno would be having a visit with the judges after Saturday's interview. I would certainly hope not for he did nothing wrong besides using a poor choice of terms. If, and I mean IF, anyone should have a visit with the judges it should be the owners and trainer. Even then, what would be done. If you sanctioned every owner or trainer who said for whatever reason they wanted their horse to go an easy mile (or 'on the helmet'), I dare say 85% of the owners/trainers would be sanctioned at any track. An easy mile doesn't mean the driver shouldn't try to win if circumstances presented itself, it means they don't want the horse gutted or used hard in the race,
That being said, if the judges want to go after anyone, it should be those looking to get money off their card so they can race in an easier condition or class.
The parents/guardians of driver Anthony Coletta have filed their expected lawsuit against Harrah's and various subsidiaries regarding the accident which has left Coletta in a condition requiring assistance to live. In the complaint, it is alleged Harrah's has been aware for two years that the track is unsafe but didn't want to spend the time or money to fix the track.
If true, it wouldn't surprise me as Harrah's races because they needed to to get a gaming license. Being it has been known the track would get out of the racing business if they could, not spending money on the track would fit the pattern. Short of a settlement, this case will go on for a long time. As for Anthony, it is doubtful he will regain any semblance of his life prior to the accident.
What does this have to do with harness racing? The track claims they want to put on a quality meet where they can attract horses nationally. Back in 2004, a $200,000 a day average purse account attracted nationally known horses and stables to Virginia. In 2014, a $200,000 a day purse account will attract low end local horses. Since there is no slot money, the only way to increase the per day purse account is to cut racing dates. According to the track, it is a question of putting on a meet of national importance versus a meet of cheap VA bred horses. It sounds a lot like what the Meadowlands and other harness tracks without slots have to face.
The track and standardbred horsemen have agreed to a 24 day meet this year with the specific calendar to be set by the track and horsremen. The problem is if no thoroughbred meet occurs, will there be a track to race at? My guess is things are dicey on that proposition which is why the Maryland horsemen have thrown a lifeline to Virginia horsemen by adding them to the preference list at Rosecroft Raceway.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Interviews and the use of social media are powerful tools for promoting the sport and providing handicappers important information, but there needs to be a way to distribute such information so everyone realistically has the same chance to acquire the information.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
What lesson has been learned here? Likely Mr. Bongiorno has learned what not to say in an interview. Being asked to drive conservatively doesn't mean not trying to win; it means trying to get an easy trip and if you can win great, but we want something left in the tank for the next race. While in the ideal, each horse will be driven aggressively going for the win but we know that is not the case. How many times in elimination races are horses driven conservatively to qualify for the final so there is plenty left in the tank for the lucrative final?
Quite honestly, I rather hear a driver be forthcoming and let the wagering public take those comments into consideration. What probably happened here is at least one driver (and likely others) has learned not to be too forthcoming. The horseplayer, as usual, looses out.
Time to Dump Claiming Races: Dean Towers writes a column calling for the end of claiming races in harness racing in the latest edition of Harness Racing Update. I have to agree with him. I remember the days when you saw the same horse racing at at track for years, a rarity these days as you see more of these horses ending up in the Siberia of harness racing. Rent a horse has ruined this sport. It is time to go back to the point where owners know they are going to be in it for the long hall with a specific horse.
Not Just a Tournament, But a Recruiting Effort: With the Levy series beginning next week, many of the Meadowlands reinsmen will be competing across the river at Yonkers Raceway. So what does one do? You have a promotion for drivers where they can win bonus money if they are the top driver of the week or one of the top five overall finishers at the end of the competition. In one way it works great for the current driving colony. It rewards their loyalty for staying at the Meadowlands on those Saturday evening, not only away from Yonkers but the Pennsylvania tracks opening.
But it is more than a tournament, it is a recruiting effort. Some drivers at the smaller tracks may decide to take the opportunity to travel to East Rutherford on Saturdays to fill the void left by those driving at Yonkers. Certainly, the possibility of winning bonus money will serve as an added inducement to make the trip to New Jersey. Better yet, if a driver does well during these six Saturdays, they may consider taking a shot staying at the Meadowlands on weekends or have them think about a future move to the Big M.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Yes, the exclusion rule could be applied arbitrarily and someone could be ruled off for no good reason at all but it is the best tool tracks have without getting tied up in litigation. If left to racing commissions to act on these individuals, it could be tied up with hearings and appeals for years. An exclusion is in effect immediate.
Is it fair? No. Could an 'innocent' person be ensnared by the privilege of exclusion? Yes. Is it the best weapon harness racing has to deal with people who may be suspect? Yes. Is it sad that relying on property rights and 'It is my sandbox and I will say who gets to play in it" is the best way to keep the sport cleaner? Absolutely.
Unfortunately, in this litigious society it is the way it is.
A deal to fund racing at the eight core tracks in Ontario is being finalized this upcoming week with some support being given to the remaining tracks which choose to operate. How good a deal it is? I will leave it to Canadian Bloggers more intimate with the going ons in Canadian Government and racing to opine on it.
One thing I will say is I talk how American racing would benefit from a centralized body controlling racing dates and wagering, the same model would probably be ideal in Canada as well. While Ontario still is the crown of racing in the nation, racing is stable on Prince Edward Island, and Quebec is recovering from a near death blow, racing's future is less certain in the other Maritime provinces and out west. A coordinated effort to promote racing throughout the nation would help stabilize the industry elsewhere.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Make no mistake, decoupling (not to be confused with uncoupling entries) is a threat to the horse racing industry nationwide if it gets approved in Florida as a precedent will be set for states with horse racing. If decoupling is approved in the Sunshine State you can expect efforts in other states to decouple the loss leader (horse racing) from the profit center (slot machines or in some states full casinos).
If approved in Florida, how long do you think it will be before Harrah's attempts to lobby Pennsylvania legislators to decouple racing from slots? What about those states where gaming revenue is declining due to cannibalizing of their customer base due to casinos opening in neighboring states? Don't you think as overall profits shrink or turn to losses they won't look to shed their loss leader (racing) in order to regain profit margins or profitability?
It is obvious racing can not depend on slots forever; the gravy train may be coming to an end sooner than you think.. Steps need to be taken to strengthen or revamp the racing product to make it more relevant to consumers of the 21st century, One thing is clear, business as usual will not cut it.
Maybe the model used in France with PMU or in Sweden with ATG is needed though to form such a model it will be necessary to establish national racing compacts. Perhaps it is the introduction of new types of wagers such as exchange wagering and fixed odds betting. Maybe the time has come to mix up racing with different distances and even RUS.
One thing is for sure, the days of each state is an island when it comes to racing must come to an end. Racing needs to become a national product, looking out for the overall betterment of the sport versus New York vs. New Jersey vs. Pennsylvania.
News Item: HRU reports that trainers PJ Farley and Alvin Callahan have been excluded from the Gural operated tracks, including the Meadowlands..
Thursday, March 13, 2014
This is a press release from United Florida Horsemen, a group of quarter horse and thoroughbred interests in Florida (standardbred interests declined to be part of the group). This press shows in Florida they are fighting 'decoupling' as it adoption threatens the entire racing industry. Additional comments follow.